Ideas fly fast in the world of pop ups. Who would have thought one of the most innovative ideas would come from a Stratham, New Hampshire legacy brand? Flex retail marketing is what we’ll call it. Timberland has recently opened a “flex” retail pop-up shop that is alive and well. Conveniently located in NYC’s trendy Fifth Avenue, the 3,500-square foot retail space is home to 2,000 “native New England species”. One wall is covered completely with hanging plants and moss. The main room is home to “engaging weather experiences”, which include a digital “rainroom” and a photo-ready winter scene.
Fifth Avenue is one of five Timberland Flex Retail spots that will be opening in the United States for the fall/winter season. Flexible stores, also known as Flex, signal a significant shift in the way retail space is designed. These stores can be assembled quickly and innovated, much like a pop up, and offer many aspects of traditional retail experiences, including longer staying power and more retail space.
Simple assembly and maximum customer benefits
Timberland’s flex retail spaces make it easy for customers to access the brand when they are most in need. For New Yorkers, this is the first snowfall or freezing rain. Timberland is a brand that appeals to urban dwellers, whether they’re avid hikers or casual meanderers. It also aims to entice curious passers-by with Instagram-ready backgrounds and other unexpected design elements.
Timberland isn’t the first to venture into flex retail. The footwear manufacturer opened several pop-up flex-retail spots across the country last year. Timberland’s vice-president of direct-to consumer retail Kate Kibler explained that the pop ups are easy to assemble and stand out from traditional bricks-and-mortar options. Kibler says, “The problem with retail today is that every store shouldn’t be the same.” “The old one-size fits all approach to retail is gone.”
Timberland can connect offline with customers through Flex Retail without the need to sign a long-term lease in a costly location. Flex retail, unlike pop-ups is built to last several months and is located in a larger area so that customers can browse the full range of products. This concept is simpler and cheaper to create than traditional brick-and mortar stores. Timberland’s flexible stores are pre-designed and include easy-to-assemble parts. The pop-up can be assembled in a matter of 3-6 days. Customers get a personalized brand experience through this initiative.
Flex spaces are durable
Timberland isn’t the only company that has found innovative ways to provide memorable offline experiences for their customers. L’Occitane en Provence, a French beauty brand, reimagined its Manhattan flagship location to maximize customer experience. This store is located only a few minutes away from Timberland’s Fifth Avenue Flex Shop. It uses stationary bikes and digital backdrops to give customers the feeling that they are in the French countryside. L’Occitane goes beyond that. The setup changes every three months. This encourages customers to return regularly and participate in new brand moments.
Flex retail is a way to attract customers back to brick and mortar retail. It blurs the lines between the fun and reliability of traditional retail and pop-ups. Although customers may first visit Timberland for photos and to take in the beautiful foliage, they will return to the store to fully immerse themselves in the experience and to purchase boots and outerwear.
Offer more than a product. Invite people to share your experience.
It is not surprising that brands are working harder to create store concepts that offer more than just merchandise. As the economy remains strong, holiday shoppers will be back in full force this season. Amazon and other online retailers are expected to account 57% of all sales. Brick-and-mortar shops can’t simply display new sweaters. They must offer their customers an exclusive, valuable experience.
From October to January, Wild One, a lifestyle company for pet owners, will host a pop-up shop in NYC’s Nolita. Wild One invites you to bring your dog along and enjoy beer, wine, and treats.
There’s more to the fun than that. Wild One offers a variety of interactive events that encourage pet owners and animal lovers to return to their homes. These include movie nights, intimate concerts and pet portraits by local artists. There are also ongoing adoptions and puppy adoptions. Because the pop-ups are longer stays and more reliant on theatrical opportunities, it’s another flexible experience. Wild One hopes to capitalize on the millennials’ shopping habits. 51% of respondents say they will buy holiday gifts for their pets this year.
Flex retail is proving that experiential shopping is a legitimate option despite all the hype surrounding the “pop-up” trend. Gen Z and Millennial shoppers don’t just want to find the right product, they are also eager to experience the brand’s look, feel and touch. Marketers need to pay attention. It’s crucial that companies think about their brand aesthetic and identify the experiences their customers might enjoy using their products. They can then create a brand environment that excites shoppers and displays products in their “natural” setting.